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BUSINESS NOTES.

CONRAIL AGREES ON MERGER: Conrail Inc. agreed late Friday to an amended merger agreement that would allow suitors CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. to split the railroad and end months of legal and corporate brawling.

The $10.5 billion deal, if approved, ultimately would transform the freight rail system in the heavily congested Northeast, where Conrail has dominated for more than two decades.Under the amended agreement, CSX will pay $115 per share for the Conrail stock it doesn't own, up from $110 earlier. The total value of the deal is $10.5 billion and matches the amount Norfolk Southern had offered.

Conrail's board had been pushing for CSX's lower-price offer in order to keep the company intact; CSX had promised to keep the new company headquartered in Philadelphia. Conrail shareholders, however, refused Jan. 17 to let CSX move ahead with its proposed takeover.

AIRLINES INCREASE PRICES: Some of the country's biggest airlines raised prices Friday after the return of a 10 percent ticket tax, but competitors might force them to roll back the higher fares by next week.

With No. 1 domestic carrier American Airlines holding back on the increase, Northwest Airlines raised fares 4 percent - a step matched by United Airlines. Continental stayed with a 10 percent increase.

Delta initially raised prices 10 percent on most routes Friday, then turned around and said it would keep all of its rates the same. US Airways, until recently known as USAir, said it would not raise fares.

Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, not only kept fares the same but brought back a 2-for-1 ticket promotion that it had dropped in April.

AVNET MOVES L.A. DIVISION: The computer parts and electronic components distributor is moving its largest division from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

Avnet, based in Great Neck, N.Y., has moved most of its operations to Phoenix and currently employs more than 1,700 people in 12 locations.

ICAHN GAINS CONTROL OF MARVEL: The battle for control of the comic book and sports card company neared an end Friday as Ronald Perelman, the financier who has controlled it since 1988, agreed to walk away with his profit and allow bondholders led by Carl Icahn to take control.

The deal, worked out in talks that had begun after bondholders won an important victory in bankruptcy court, has not yet been signed, officials said, and could fall apart if the bondholders conclude there is less value in Marvel than had been thought.

CAMELS GET MORE EXPENSIVE: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the maker of Winston and Camel cigarettes, boosted its wholesale prices by about 4 percent Friday in a move that analysts said could add about a nickel to the retail price of a pack of smokes.

The nation's second-biggest tobacco marketer informed its customers late Thursday that it was boosting its prices, effective Friday, to offset rising costs. It was the first increase in cigarette prices since April 1996.

Philip Morris USA, the biggest U.S. tobacco maker with brands like Marlboro and Virginia Slims, and other tobacco companies made no immediate move to match the price hike.

But analysts said they expected the industry would do so within days.

ROLLING ROCK GETS NEW CEO: Labatt USA has replaced the chief executive at the brewery that makes Rolling Rock beer.

Al Spinelli, chief executive at Latrobe Brewing Co. in western Pennsylvania, was replaced last week by Philip Hall, a longtime executive with Labatt's Canadian operations.

The brewery shipped a record high 1.08 million barrels of beer in 1995, but output dipped slightly last year. The Rolling Rock brewery had much more independence than other operations within Labatt's USA.

FED CHAIRMAN ADDRESSES E-COMMERCE: Government may have an interest in regulating the infant world of electronic commerce, but its involvement should be minimal, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday.

He characterized privacy as a cherished value in America and ensuring it is not violated as a key challenge facing electronic commerce.

If consumers are going to have confidence in the new ways of automating payments, doing business over the Internet and using stored-value cards, privacy and security are a must, he said.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 8, 1997
Words:691
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